Unless you’re looking for it, it’s easy to drive right past J-Town.
Located at 3160 Steeles Avenue East, the plaza is behind a nondescript office building that belies the amazing array of restaurants and shops within.
Follow the bright yellow sign and matching awning and you’ll find yourself in a mini square that’s a one-stop destination for Japanese cuisine, imported groceries, and hard-to-find ingredients.
During warmer seasons, there’s usually a line-up in front of a food stand for freshly cooked takoyaki.
Perhaps the most popular spot at J-Town is Heisei Mart, which sells cute decor, tableware, and bento boxes. Shelves are packed with various ingredients, drinks, snacks, instant noodles, and ready-made food.
We found sakura KitKats, French onion soup chips, and chocolate-drizzled potato chips (weirdly addictive). There’s also a little dining area where you can order ramen, udon, and soba noodles.
When it comes to food, there’s a reason why Tanuki Restaurant is almost always packed during lunch.
The restaurant serves brunch on weekends, as well as Japanese comfort food like crispy pork tonkatsu curry, omurice (a soft omelette over chicken fried rice), and the hearty oxtail hayashi beef (braised oxtail, mushrooms, gravy, fried shallots, sour cream, and rice).
Bakery Nakamura sells milk bread that you can cut to any size, although we’d recommend the thick slices typical of bread sold at Japanese stores.
They’ve also got a wide assortment of baked goods and ready-made meals from Tanuki Restaurant.
If by any chance you’re looking for Wagyu beef, you can find a variety from Japan, US, and Australia at Fãmu, a Japanese butcher. Next door is J-Town by the Sea, where they sell fresh, sashimi-grade seafood.
For a quick snack, there’s a hot dog stand but it doesn’t sell your regular hot dogs.
Like Japadog in Vancouver, this place has hot dogs topped with bonito flakes, seaweed, Japanese mayo, and even wasabi mayo.
There are also different types of onigiri (rice balls) stuffed with mackerel, tuna, or salmon.
Another must-try is the soft, melt-in-your-mouth daifuku (glutinous rice cakes) from Sasaki Fine Pastry.
We recommend the mango but you can’t go wrong with any of the other fillings such as strawberry, whipped cream, black sesame, red bean (available on weekends), and the seasonal sakura. As for drinks, you can get a regular Americano but if you’re looking to mix it up, they have a hōjicha or sesame latte.
End your visit on a sweet note at Yuzu no Ki Café and Patisserie and try the matcha brownie, lavender cookie, and madeleines available in an assortment of flavours such as lemon, matcha, orange, and Earl Grey.
Address: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham